Eid al-Adha Through the Lens: Exploring Bakrid in Delhi
On Eid, we went on a photowalk through Old Delhi.
Eid ul Adha celebrations in Delhi have always been the stuff of legends. This is my first Eid away from Kerala, away from home, and as my home state is flooding, as we’re drowning in another wave of destruction, I felt too cooped up to be able to do anything, but explore the city I was in.
To experience it, I found myself waking up to the morning call for prayer, and making my way to Jama Masjid.
On the way there, I spoke to my cab driver about his Eid experience in Delhi - this was my first time, you see, and I wanted to dive in like a local. I was told Jama Masjid was the place to be, but I took a chance and asked him where the celebrations truly are.
He said, 'You see madam, the problem is, Delhi has a lot of people.'
I nodded sympathetically, imagining his disdain for migrants into the capital city; bracing myself for the inevitable rant; trying not to give away the fact I am in fact, one of them.
And then he surprised me.
He said, ‘So we do everything we can to make sure everybody is involved. Delhi’s Eidgah is too small to hold all our brothers, so we spill out into the streets, and pray on the roads circling Jama Masjid’.
That moment catapulted me into the spirit of the celebration. The underlying feeling was of inclusion, of ensuring that we’re all within the fold of acceptance. Sure, there are always dark sides to this, but today, all that mattered was a sense of communities coming together.
Eid ul-Adha is a festival that is celebrated by the Muslim community all over the world. Colloquially called Bakra-eid, or Bakrid, it is a day marked with ritual animal sacrifice. The festival, and the associated accusations of animal cruelty, is a point of polarisation, with many communities calling it out. Eid ul-Adha differs from Eid ul-Fitr in how, why, and when they are celebrated, but the bottom line is, Muslims consider this particular Eid the holier of the two.
Eid al-Adha translates into the Feast, or the Festival of the Sacrifice. It pays tribute to the willingness shown by Abraham to sacrifice his own son, as an act of obedience, when asked by God. A test of faith, God intervened before Abraham could actually slaughter his son, and a lamb was slaughtered instead. This is the tradition that is followed even today, by the slaughtering of a goat or a lamb in ritual sacrifice.
So back to my exploration of Eid on the ground - we reached Juma Masjid, and as I exited the car, I realised two things straight off the bat - one, I was the only woman in what seemed like a five mile radius. And two - I didn’t need to figure out which way to go, the crowd would carry me there.
The sheer scale of humanity I saw on the roads, making their way to the morning prayer was immense.
It’s not a number I could possibly convey in words.
What I can say is this - the roads were a sea of kneeling men, making their obeisance to God.
The only women I saw were street dwellers, who were all watching in awe.
Surprisingly, all of them, uniformly, had their heads covered.
I wondered, was this area only inhabited by Muslim street dwellers, or were the people of other faiths making themselves scarce on this holy day?
I could only make my way up to a certain point - a strong and heavy handed Police and Military presence had barricades in place at the end of the street, and had large, unfriendly guns in their hands.
The men made their Namaz, and then began to proceed to the Kurbani - the act of ritual sacrifice.
I meandered through the streets, making my way towards the central complex that housed the mosque.
As I entered the building, passing through multiple levels of security, I realised that Kashmir is a shadow that continues to fall upon us all. Just as I was thinking this, I was further perturbed when I noticed that a huge Indian flag had been hoisted at one of the gates to the Masjid.
Was this patriotism crossing barriers of religion, or was that waving tricolour a warning, a reminder of where exactly we are?
With a troubled mind, I walked past the gates and up the iconic stairs, and I realised I was surrounded by the undulating sounds of a language that flows though my veins - I could hear Malayalam everywhere around me.
You know what they say about Malayalis - that we have colonised the world, that wherever you go, you will meet a Malayali there. This is largely true - but today, it snapped me back to my feeling of homecoming - and this wasn’t purely a reaction to linguistic recognition. No, you see what warmed my heart was that I heard young Malayali voices speaking amongst each other and then to locals in Hindi, explaining to people exiting the mosque that Kerala was drowning, that Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra needed help and financial aid.
It warmed my heart no end, to see these kids so earnestly beseeching care. I grabbed one of them by the shoulders and whispered a fervent “Good luck” - my voice was too choked for anything more than that.
I guess my cab driver was right. Delhi is a melting pot that houses a veritable culture stew, and in it, during Eid, despite being the lone little carrot that I am, I found a home.
And that made me realise - that’s the point of Eid. It isn’t just about honouring sacrifice - it’s about keeping faith. It’s about realising that no matter how dark everything seems, there’s always hope - from Kerala’s floods to Kashmir’s despair - things aren’t as bad as they seem, and even when it feels like you’re on the cusp of falling into darkness, a brighter day is just on the horizon.